EA Sports’ FIFA series isn’t necessarily something that needs to be “fixed.” That’s because, year in and year out, the publisher has done an outstanding job recapturing the nature of the worldwide sport, right down to the spot-on announcing, the smooth gameplay and, of course, the presentation to hook fans in the first place.
Regardless, I was a big fan with the content added to FIFA 17, as EA Sports continues to define what a soccer experience should be – even in the face of a fabulous contender like Konami’s PES 2017. It’s still a great game to go to for your kicks and soccer goals, no matter what your skill set.
There are a number of tweaks to the gameplay that make it feel like it comes together better than it has before. Having better control over the ball as you prepare for a keeper in the outer part of the goal is a neat feature, even if not everyone will take advantage of it (probably because of their commitment to scoring goals up close and personal). In addition, the throw-ins have a much greater effect than before, thanks to improved accuracy. No more “why the heck is the ball going over my player’s head” sort of deal, unless, granted, you screw up on purpose.
As for the rest of the gameplay, it’s still something special, between the defensive plays that help you regain control of the ball (just watch out for that red card) and the solid offensive play with passing and shooting that couldn’t feel more natural if it tried. You can also tweak the AI however you please, should you be looking for a cakewalk or a fierce competition between two of the world’s best teams. There’s something here for everyone.
But then there’s The Journey, a mode that’s easily one of FIFA 17’s most innovative additions. With it, you control the actions of a young player named Alex Hunter, looking to make a legacy for himself in the sport of soccer. There are plenty of cutscenes and dialogue choices that help him guide a direction for his future.
It’s a personal choice over the usual options presented in FIFA, like Ultimate Team and the other modes, and one that soccer fans will definitely appreciate. Sure, it’s got a bit of backlogged story that keeps you off the field for a bit, but it’s a story well told, and it reminds you of the glory of soccer to begin with. This mode is well worth playing. I just wish some of the choices meant a little more to the overall game.
Fortunately, it has its merits, with upgrade points that allow you to bump up your skills wherever you please. This helps personify your soccer experience with Alex, as you have a number of categories where you can make yourself a better player. Just be sure not to top-load yourself too much in one department where you leave the others short – you’ll feel the differences from that sooner than you might think.
Career Mode has some great little things, such as objectives to make your club better, and making decisions that will impact the team in either a positive or negative way. (Or maybe a little of each.) Of course, Ultimate Team has returned as well, letting you get into the madness of capturing cards as you push for, well, the ultimate team, duh. These tie in with the new Squad Building Challenges, where you create viable team chemistry with players and then earn rewards in the process.
There is a bit of a shake-up in the commentary department, with Pierre Menes replacing Franck Sauzee, while Herve Mathoux stays put. But the team still has a great set of chemistry, as they read off plays and react to big scores just as excitedly as real commentators in the game. Some may miss Sauzee, but these two make a great team.
The rest of the audio is good too, with lots of cheering crowds, some good music selections and even a few ambient noises on the field with ball kicks and referee whistles. We’ve heard this in games from the years before, but they’re great to have back.
As for the presentation, the game still looks stupendous. Minor graphic issues aside, the on-field play has never looked better than it does now, and the usage of various new stadiums – along with several of the old classics – will leave a few of you soccer fans in awe. The animations are razor sharp, and the on-field action doesn’t let up. This is one instance in which replays are actually a very noteworthy thing, just so you can see the sheer beauty of your shot set-up and execution. Boom.
FIFA 17 is a nice little tweaking of a package that didn’t necessarily need it, and as a result, it’s even better than before. If EA Sports can continue to maneuver this series in the direction it’s going, there’s no doubt that it will keep its tight grip as ruler of the soccer world. Yes, that’s even with PES 2017 breathing down its neck – the competition is ruthless, but FIFA is ready for it.